While the study suggests that these tools have long-term benefits, they also come with short-term costs to fishers. "Some places have chosen to end overfishing," says Trevor Branch, a co-author from the University of Washington. "That choice can be painful for fishermen in the short term, but in the long term it benefits fish, fishermen, and our ocean ecosystems as a whole."
Key among the group's recommendations is to fish at rates lower than those producing maximum sustainable yield (MSY), a long-standing and internationally accepted benchmark for total catch. They call for MSY to be reinterpreted as an absolute upper limit rather than a target, in line with U.N. recommendations.
The authors used ecosystem models to calculate a multi-species MSY (or MMSY) that adds up yield across all species, taking account of their interrelations. That analysis suggests that fishing below MMSY yields just as much fish as exceeding that benchmark, but has many ecological benefits including fewer species collapses, an increase in fish size and fish abundance. "Below MMSY there is a fishing-conservation sweet spot," says co-author Steven Palumbi of Stanford University, "where economic and ecosystem benefits converge."
The team also notes that in addition to reducing exploitation rates below MMSY, there are several other measures that can reduce fishing impacts on ecosystems. "Fishing at maximum yield comes at a significant cost of species collapses," explains Heike Lotze, a co-author from Dalhousie University. "But even low levels of fishing do change marine ecosystems and may collapse vulnerable species. That's why we require a combination o
|Contact: Matthew Wright|
Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea